Jimmy Hughes-10-17-19: From the first mayor to the current mayor. The city dedicated the re-named Jimmy Hughes Campus at a ceremony Oct. 14. Jimmy Hughes, left was Mesquite’s first mayor when the city was incorporated in 1984. Current Mayor Al Litman, right congratulated Jimmy and his wife Angie, center, for their life-long service to Mesquite. Photo by Barbara Ellestad

Do you love Mesquite and all it has to offer?

There are many people you can thank but perhaps none more than Jimmy Hughes. He, among others, had a vision for our beautiful city that you’re now living.

Hughes was the first mayor of Mesquite when it was incorporated in 1984. He served seven years and helped get the city on its feet and on the road to what we have now.

The city is honoring his life-long dedication to Mesquite by re-naming the area known as the “Mesquite Campus” on North Yucca Street and christening it as the “Jimmy Hughes Campus.”

The buildings house the Mesquite Community Theatre, the Mesquite Cancer Society headquarters, College of Southern Nevada, the old high school campus, the historic gymnasium, the Sunshine Academy preschool and various other recreational and community programs and activities.

Hughes is well-known for his sense of humor, lightheartedness and canny cowboy approaches to getting things done. “If I don’t know the answer to your questions, I’ll make it up,” Hughes said at the dedication ceremony.

He contrasted the town of Mesquite as it was in 1984 with the city of 2019, saying, “It’s like night and day. When we first became a city we didn’t have a drugstore, or a hospital, or a lot of the amenities we have today. Some like it, some don’t. But it’s been good for our community.”

Back in those days, residents would have to travel to St. George for prescriptions and hospital care. “We got things started,” Hughes said. “There have been a lot of great people that have come after us that have done good things.”

Hughes was born in 1940 in Mesquite and has lived here his whole life. He graduated from the College of Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah, and then was called on a 30-month mission to Northern Germany for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After returning home he attended Brigham Young University, graduating in 1965 with a major in Animal Science and a composite minor of Zoology, Economics, and German.

He never truly envisioned the growth of Mesquite and the improvements that have occurred since his mayoral tenure. “That wasn’t our purpose. As we saw the town growing, we saw all our greenbelt going away. All of our little farms were going away. We wanted to save some of the greenbelt and bring in some facilities and businesses in so our kids could make a living here.

“But it kinda got out of hand and people found out what we had. They just kept coming and we couldn’t get the gate shut quick enough.”

Hughes and his wife Angie raised six children in Mesquite. They have 49 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

His grandfather was the local postmaster for 41 years. His great-grandfather owned a local grocery store where the current Golden West restaurant casino is now located.

“Great-grandad and grandad would travel to St. Thomas [near Moapa] where the railhead was once every three weeks to pick up supplies for the store. It was a three-and-a-half-day trip. They had to cross the Virgin River 10 or 15 times depending on how high the water was.”

His great-grandfather William Abbott and his great-grandmother Mary Abbott are honored with a statue in front of city hall. “He was the fourth white baby to be born in this valley. Mary was the local mid-wife and delivered over 100 babies here.”

According to the history book “A River and a Road,” written by Dorothy Dawn Frehner Thurston, Hughes worked with the Bureau of Land Management in the late 1980s to procure 4,000 acres of land north of I-15 for future development. He and three councilmen traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a congressional hearing for the land deal. The BLM was not in favor of the sale because of the possible affect on the environment and the water supply.

Being the clever cowboy that he was, Hughes addressed the congress saying, “We’ve been talking about the water rights for the cattle and I challenge you, if you can find one cow on that 4,000 acres, I’ll eat it. As far as water on that land – Hell, even the jackrabbits have to pack canteens to keep from choking to death.”

According to Hughes, “none of the congressmen had ever been out here and didn’t know what they were talking about. I just got tired of hearing them chirp.”

The land deal was approved giving Mesquite more room to grow and prosper.

When the city was incorporated in 1984, the general fund had a grand total of $325. Later that first year, it grew to $400,000 and now it’s over $20 million. The population was less than 2,000 and now it’s approaching 25,000.

Hughes’ first term was for only one year. His second term was two years long. As he was running for his third term that would be four years he said, “I like to argue with people. I’ll run again. I kinda liked politicking.”

When he thought about running the fourth time, his wife Angie told him it was “either the city or a divorce. If you run again, you better run to find a new wife because I’ve had enough. He grew the city. I grew kids. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

“I just got things started and others have built upon it over time. I’m just proud to be a small part of it.”